Why is the Conservation Area called North Laine?
In this article written in 2008, Maureen Brand, former Chair of the NLCA described the role played by Ken Fines in setting up the Conservation Area. ‘The North Laine Conservation Area was designated as such in 1977 and initially covered the area between Queen's Road, North Road, Gloucester Place, St George's Place and Trafalgar Street and including Gardner Street and Bond Street. It was extended in 1989 to include North Place.
Was it worth preserving?
Doubts were expressed about the proposal to designate this artisan district as a conservation area. The Argus in 1977 reported that critics claimed there were too many tatty buildings in the area to make it worth preserving after the Council had let it get run down over the years - and The Argus' own reporter wrote in an article he has not been allowed to forget: "It's tatty tour time". There were also fears that the new conservation area would stifle industry. Councillor Blackman in 1976 feared it could become "embalmed".
Kenneth Fines' role
The closest account of the proposal and the setting up of the Brighton conservation areas comes from the one most involved at the time, Kenneth Fines, Borough Planning Officer of Brighton from 1974 to 1983. His memoir of 1997 describes the process:
The Blue Plaque in North Rd
"In 1974 I became Borough Planning Officer to the new Brighton Council, who accepted my recommendation that the draft Greater Brighton Structure Plan be adopted as an interim measure for development control. The old town and the Regency areas had previously been designated as conservation areas, a concept which had been introduced by the Civic Amenities Act 1967 to protect 'areas of special architectural or historic interest, the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance'. In 1976 I carried out a review of conservation areas and recommended, with the support of an enthusiastic staff, that Brighton's second phase of growth in Victorian times after the coming of the railways in 1840 should be recognised, involving the designation of extensive new areas and the extension of existing ones. The Council approved and implemented these proposals. I think it is to the credit of the previous County Borough Council that - despite the indiscretions of the 1960s which had ruined the character of so many cities - so much of Brighton's historic character remained to conserve.'
The 1792 terrier map showing the five 'laines': North Laine, West Laine, Hilly Laine, Little Laine and East Laine. The highlighted area is the third furlong in North Laine.
North Laine - from field system to conservation area
"One of the new conservation areas had no name. I proposed that it should be called 'North Laine' in recognition of the old field system. As the report stated: 'The hub of the area is the delightful pedestrian shopping street of Kensington Gardens, but the area generally has a distinctive, intimate character derived from its lively admixture of terraced houses, small shops, workshops and street market.' I believe that North Laine is the epitome of what has been termed the rich texture of metropolitan life - so often neglected in urban planning. It is good to see how such an area can thrive once it is given an accolade of recognition and confidence. I was delighted that designation was quickly followed by the formation of the North Laine Community Association."
A memorial for Kenneth
To mark the respect and gratitude of residents of North Laine, a tree in Sydney Street was planted in Kenneth Fines' name. Sadly, Ken died in 2008.’